How to write a story? Argument, plot, structure and suspense

There are four fundamental elements when telling a story: plot, plot, structure and suspense. However, since all of them are interrelated and even depend on each other, we can sometimes confuse them.

In this entry I want us to analyze these elements separately to see exactly what they consist of and what their function is in the story. Also, I thought of including a small practical exercise that you will find at the end of the post. I hope you find it interesting. Let’s go there!

Let’s start with the most basic: the argument is what the work is about, the subject, the summary of the story in a chronological order of the facts. Of course, this order does not always coincide with the one that appears at the time of telling it, but it is the first thing that we have to be clear in order to construct a narration. The argument is that which answers the questions: “What is it? What counts? ”

Plot and plot are the two elements that are more often confused, since both refer to what is counted, but there is a fundamental difference between them: the plot is the argument in the order in which it appears narrated.

To put a quick example, let us think of a suspense story whose argument was: a policeman kills a woman and hides the body. The police find him and he himself works on the investigation, hiding the evidence and erasing any clues, until a colleague discovers it.

Although the plot might coincide with the plot, it could also be this other: Police find the body of a murdered woman and begins to investigate the case. However, everything is too complex, it seems that the killer is ahead of them and can not find any clue to follow; Until one of the policemen realizes that the murderer is his own companion, who has been erasing evidence. In the end, there is a flashback in which we see how the killer has been covering their tracks and we are going back step by step until the moment of the murder.

As you see, the plot differs from the argument since the chronological order of events is not the same as the one in which we get the information in the story. Of course, the plot is the one that imposes the form that the structure must have.

Another fundamental point in all history. The structure is the skeleton, the frame in its physical form. Here you can enter the number of chapters or scenes, their distribution, their extension, the moment in which a flashback is to be placed, and so on. It could be said that the structure is the physical map of a plot.

It consists of two things: on the one hand, in the form and type of information offered along the structure to maintain the reader’s attention. On the other hand, it is also important to recognize where we need to focus attention.

I explain: sometimes the trick to keep the suspense is to hide certain data, such as who is the killer (for example, for a case like that of the policeman who has killed the woman but whose identity is not revealed until the end). We grab the reader through the curiosity to know who has done this and why. Other times the suspense lies in knowing how they will catch the killer whose identity we know from the beginning, or if they will catch it.

Questions like “Will the bad guy get away with it? Will this character overcome his poor streak? Survive to? Why did he do it? “Can work very well as the hub of suspense. The important thing is to detect the focus of tension that we want to exploit, and do it.

Practical exercise
As a suggestion to practice and reflect on these four concepts, I propose the following: choose different stories that you have liked (no matter the genre, can be movies, short stories, novels …) and write down on the paper your plot and plot . Do they coincide or is there variation? If there is one, what is it? Why? How is the structure?

At this point it is also interesting to break down the structure on paper. It will be very useful and, in addition, it will help answer the following question: how does the author keep the suspense and what is the axis of it, the question (or questions) that causes me curiosity to follow the story from beginning to end?

What do you think? Do you already have an interesting story to analyze?

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